Manila Standard Today Article 2014


By Alena Mae S. Flores
November 2014

Ma. Gladys Cruz-Sta. Rita, MPA, CSEE, FICDHER appointment as the first female president of state-owned National 2013 caused a stir in the organization, as energy companies were traditionally considered men’s bailiwick.

But as she nears her first year in office, Maria Gladys Cruz-Santa Rita, a 51-year-old mother of three, has earned the respect and admiration not only of the Napocor boys but of the industry bigwigs as well, after being able to implement several reforms.

President Aquino appointed Santa Rita in August 2013, after being endorsed by Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla. She is not new to the power industry, however, as she once served as a director of state-owned Philippine National Oil Co. and chairman of its subsidiary PNOC Development and Management Corp.

Before her stint in the energy sector, she acted as the provincial administrator of Bulacan for 17 years and worked as consultant at the United States Agency for International Development. She was also the director-general of the Liberal Party of the Philippines.

Santa Rita replaced Froilan Tampinco,who served as Napocor president for five years after his stint at the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. as vice president.

“Truth to tell, I had second thoughts when Iwas first offered the NPC presidency by Energy Secretary Petilla. Being president and CEO of the Napocor was never in my dreams or even my career plan. It took a lot of introspection and prayer time before I was able to discern my decision. But, it was Secretary Petilla himself who provided me the push,” Santa Rita says.

“The secretary explained to me that he needed somebody who understands both the corporate world and the government bureaucracy-one who could possibly make a difference in the NPC organization; one who would not just defend and continue the status quo. That somebody should be able to introduce new ways of doing things more efficiently,” she says.

Santa Rita says Petilla wanted someone who has an extensive, informed and experienced understanding of the intricacies of government to be able to relate effectively and successfully with the top leaders and decision makers of the country, the members of the Congress, bureaucrats of government agencies, local executives and the different stakeholders in the private and public sectors.

“Apparently, I was the person the secretary had in mind,” she says. “That made me the 21st president and the first woman president of the company in 77 years. Majority of them were engineers though I am not the first who is a non-engineer by profession.”

One of my expertise though in my long career in government is a specialized kind of engineering, that is management engineering or more specifically, reengineering bureaucracies,” she says.

Santa Rita considers herself a seasoned public manager, with exposure to both local and national bureaucracy and corporate governance.

“Napocor is an entirely unique government corporation. Being one of the oldest and formerly one of the biggest state-run companies, it had seen leaderships come and go. And by some providence, it had endured and even retained the best and disciplined minds in the energy industry. But what I really learned in my almost nine months as chief executive of NPC is that power-the provision and sustainability of electricity services cannot be assured by technical expertise alone,” she says.

“Coming from decades of experience in reengineering organizations, local governments, and making policy work for people instead of people working for policy, I realized that it takes both tact and mastery of the trade to really. Arrive at solid results. And it takes good policy plus effective managerial skills to make the best engineering solutions work at a magnitude that is sustainable and efficient, especially in company whose national presence is expansive as NPC.” Santa Rita says.

Economics graduate

Her economics degree from the University of the Philippines and a master’s degree in Public Administration at La Consolacion University of the Philippines served her well in her current position.

“My background in Economics helped me a lot in understanding the electric power industry and its intricacies faster. First, electricity requires a delicate balance between supply and demand in the grid. Economics provides tools for measuring costs and benefits and explains the uniqueness of supply and demand in electricity markets. If we go strictly by what Economics is and what Napocor has become, it isn’t hard to understand why I am where I am now,” she says.

“As an economist, I have always observed how people tend to adjust and cope with the kind of resources they have at hand. When resources are scarce or when the means are on a surplus, either way, organizations change. That’s when economic managers are most needed to translate these changes into appropriate strategies that would guide organizations towards resource conservation or generation,” she says.

Santa Rita says she has been fortunate enough to have been an economist in organizations that really presented real-life, on-the-ground challenges. That taught me that people, especially Filipinos, have the inner courage and resiliency to prevail under the most trying and difficult situations,” she says.

She has implemented long-needed reforms at Napocor such as addressing the procurement of fuel for the Small Power Utilities Group’s operations. Due to delays in procurement, some SPUG areas suffered brownouts. Under her leadership, Napocor was able to advance the procurement of its fuel needs by around three months ahead of schedule and the state-owned firm invested in storage tanks to ensure ample fuel supply. Napocor, under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act, is now focused on missionary electrification.

Santa Rita gives credit to the Napocor board, management and staff for the progress achieved by the company.” The Napocor board, led by Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Energy Secretary Petilla, is at the helm of every milestone weave managed to mark. NPC’s own management committee, vice presidents and senior department heads, help me in solving the day-to-day as well as the lingering problems of the company. What I provided was my experience, my persistence, and my faith in the people who still believe in the strategic role of the NPC in the evolving power sector,” she says.

“I am very proud of the NPC employees and truly warmed by their support. Of course, it helped very much that I come from a standpoint of a development manager familiar with the intricacies of government, that is why I was successful in getting the needed support for the company to be able to do its job well,” she says.

Santa Rita recognizes that there is still much be done to bring electricity to the countryside. She says Napocor is always on the lookout for win-win scenarios for the SPUG areas because “in the end, the decisions and the actions we take to gravitate those who look up to us to power their lives.”

“Missionary electrification continues as we speak. We have lined up the rise of more SPUG plants in strategic island communities all over the country. I am surprised that there are still so may unelectrified areas,” she says.

Palawan, for example, reported at least 40 unelectrified areas while Bohol has 32 areas requiring electrification. Mindoro Occidental has four villages with almost 1,000 households that have yet to be powered. “But more importantly, we are vying to improve the quality of services of existing SPUG plants, the viability and sustainability of 11 dams and 17 watershed that continue to support power generation and supply water to our communities and farms,” she says.

“We are now coordinating closely with the ERC for the implementation of the graduation program for some of the privatized missionary areas like those in Palawan and Mindoro. Subsidies from the universal charge for missionary electrification should really go to missionary areas where it is most needed,” Santa Rita says.

Santa Rita says that for the meantime, the government should continue subsidizing missionary or far flung areas. “From NPC’s perspective, there are still many things to do, more areas to power and lighten up with missionary power. Still, some communities only have electricity at certain hours of the day. From a development perspective, we need support and cooperation of other government agencies to match and complement missionary electrification with programs that would bring in investments into the islands that would in turn spur industrialization. We need local businesses to see the wisdom in investing in power especially in areas where the potential for progress is growing,” she says.

Family time

Despite her busy schedule, Santa Rita says she allots time for family bonding during weekends, “I spend my weekends with my family, watching TV or movies with my three boys and husband or going out of town sometimes with relatives. We have no favorite vacation place in particular. As long as I’m with my family, I’m a happy soul,” she says.

Asked whether she also plans to write another book after authoring two books on local government and governance, Santa Rita says a third book will always be on the horizon.

“Child of my soul. That is how I called my first book ‘Running A Bureaucracy’ which was a centennial publication of the University of the Philippines-NCPAG. The second book which I co-authored with some dear friends at UP titled ‘Towards an Informed Citizens’ Participation in Local Governance: A Sourcebook on Local Public Finance’ published by Social Watch Philippines and the UNDP, was actually an output of a consultancy work. Will there be another ‘child of my soul’? Why not? I have three wonderful boys. I might as well have three books in my name. Probably it will be about government corporations in the Philippines,” she says.

Whatever the future brings, Santa Rita says she is a strong believer in Jesus Christ, “my God and my savior.”

“I’m a strong believer in my Creator. He always has bigger plans for me that I have for myself. As to where I will go after my stint at Napocor, God knows best,” she says.


Source: Manila Standard Today – November 2014